Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

I bought and started reading "An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination" by Elizabeth McCracken months ago, well prior to my mom passing. I recently picked it up again, despite all instincts of self-preservation saying not to read a sad book when you're already sad, but insanity won out.

The book is a memoir chronicling the story of Elizabeth McCracken, a writer, teacher, and spinster ("I would never have called myself single" she says. "The word suggests a certain willingness to flirt in bars.") who falls in love with Edward Harvey, also an author and gets married. Together, Elizabeth and Edward continue to write and travel, including to Berlin, Denmark, Ireland, and Paris. During one such trip to France, Elizabeth finds out that she's pregnant. She says "I loved being pregnant. Whatever hormones had shaken together in my bloodstream, it was an agreeable cocktail." They referred to the baby as Pudding. Pudding, what are you up to? they'd say to her stomach. In the last month of her pregnancy the unthinkable happens and after a frantic visit to the midwife, and then later to the hospital, their greatest fears are realized when an ultrasound confirms that the baby has died in utero and she has to deliver it. As Elizabeth says "This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending." Luckily the books doesn't end there, it also tells what happened next, not only the heartbreak, the sense of blame, the sense of sameness, the escape from France and its memories, but also the return back home, and almost a year later finding out she's pregnant again and having a happy healthy baby to love with the knowledge that the love for the first magnifies the love for the second, and vice versa.

I would definitely recommend this book. I've grieved and I'm grieving for a loved one lost, but never, thank God, a child. I can't even begin to imagine the grief of a parent losing a child. The story is lovingly and honestly told, and while the main storyline centers on a child lost, it really also deals with grief in general and how we relate to one another, how we cope, and how there never really is closure. As the author says "I want a book that acknowledges that life goes on but that death goes on too, that a person who is dead will never disappear from view. Your friends may say, time heals all wounds. No, it doesn't, but eventually you'll feel better."